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Bringing your own (Kosher) food into a restaurant

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I just finished reading a thread on a board that is geared more towards being a place for food industry people to rant, but it seems there are just plain old eating folks too. The thread that I just finished was basically this. A waiter was complaining about a party of 6 that he had in his restaurant. 5 of the 6 ladies ordered food and drink, but the 6th lady was a religious Jewish woman who kept strict Kosher. Therefore, she could not eat anything in that restaurant and so she brought her meal with her in a bag from home, along with a plate and whatever else she needed. For some reason, this upset almost everyone on this board, for various reasons. The reasons ranged from a basic 'you don't bring outside food into a restaurant', to 'how dare these people push their religious beliefs in my face' to 'how does this affect the tip you should be getting' and even including 'she should have just sat there and drank water if she could not eat'. I must admit I was a little blown away by these reactions!! One of my first thoughts was 'I wonder how the Chowhounds would react to this?' so here is my first shot at starting a thread; I am curious as to how others will react.

  1. dori
    Very interesting thread.
    I think this is one of those, "Eye of the beholder",issues. Personally, I think the group should have spoken with the Mgr prior to arriving. Many restos have "kosher connections" and will arrange to have a kosher meal delivered, complete with disposable plates and plasticware. I have attended numerous professional confs/mtngs and it's done all the time. That way, the resto has some control over what is being served and consumed in their establishment. I think the Server should have been gracious and just offered to supply whatever was asked for in terms of a plastic cup and a drink. It might have resulted in a bigger tip.
    I'll be interested to see what other posters think. For those who question why the group didn't just eat at a kosher restaurant, I'd have to point out the high cost of kosher food and the fact that not every neighborhood has kosher restaurants.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Tay

      I agree: If you're going to do something like this, you definitely need to call ahead.

      1. re: Tay

        The customer is right. To be otherwise in a religious-oriented food issue is downright bigoted, insensative, backwards, and foolish, to say the least. This customer was not bringing her lunch in to save money---she was trying to eat with her companions while adhering to her strict religious rules. Bravo for her and Jeers and Boo for the wait staff, who could only think of the dollars lost. The mangager might have been able to help, esp if alerted ahead of time; if not, he/she could have been sensative and helpful to the group and been a hero. I hope the wait staff was professional to the guest, at least to her face, and was not a jerk. And what is up with the other people on that Board >>"pushing her religious beliefs in their face. " What?? Am I reading that right? Was she insisting that others eat kosher too? Or was she just keeping kosher herself? My indignation is showing....

        1. re: anthrochick

          So how would you expect a resto to handle this if, say, half of the table brought their own meals, for whatever reason?

          Would you be ok with the resto charging the customer who brought their own food a flat fee to cover the lost revenue? This would be along the lines of a corkage fee...I personally think that would be quite fair.

          You seem very offended that a business venture would be concerned about losing money - guess what, they NEED to make money to stay in business. Business. Making money. This is cause for indignation?

          Call ahead to see what the resto can do.

          1. re: lisa13

            Customer service first. And I have been a wait person in my lifetime.
            And I do have an MBA, so I do quite understand the importance of a business earning a profit. I have family friends that own restaurants. I am not "offended" as you put it, by a business making money... I am offended that so many people on here are intolerant of religious differences. So many people on this website are coming across as intolerant bigots, unwilling to give respect and understanding to someone who was in a difficult food situation.

            The case in point is for 1 of 6 people to bring her own food for religious needs. It was not for 3 of the 6. Just 1. This kosher lady was not trying to "stick it" to the restaurant. Kosher people dont go to non-kosher restaurants if they dont have to; nor do vegans go to steak places if they don't have to. There was some unknown reason that this restaurant was chosen.

            Do you think she should have just sat there with nothing, not even water? That was her other alternative ( if there was no kosher restaurant ). Hmm....let her bring her own and have a happy table of 6 ...or make her sit there with nothing and have unhappy customers, so I can "make a profit" in the short term. hmmmm. CUSTOMER SERVICE wins out.

            If you read the post from the server, just posted, like I just did, you see some self-serving, snarling attitudes. Maybe it is just to blow off steam, but these are some nasty comments.

            1. re: anthrochick

              I haven't read the original thread from the server but I also agree that some of the waitstaff comments were a bit over the top, especially the one saying she was trying to push her religious beliefs on them. Where does that come from?

              I agree with the others that said she should have called first but the fact is that she didn't. I feel it is in the best interest of the restaurant and the group that the restaurant should have accommodated this one woman (and it seems that they did -- you just have one waiter bitching about it even though the manager said it was OK). Yeah, some people are stating these hypothetical situations -- but the reality is that it was 1 out of 6. You can't run a business if you see things in black or white, let alone, life. I think people need to adapt and be more understanding in general.

              Anthrochick, I see that you're a relatively new poster. The vast majority of posters here are very nice and helpful. For some reason, Not About Food board tends to generate a lot more "spirited" debate than other boards (I've seen your most recent MSG thread). I've enjoyed your posts so far and hope that you continue to contribute.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                Thank you Miss Needle for your comments. Yes, I am a new poster and I enjoy it alot. And yes, I agree, most CH are very helpful and nice, and not into one-up-man-ship like the travel web site I was on last year. Posters are wry and helpful for the most part. I posted a question on another board and got very nice answers. I wonder why this particular board gets the more lively, spirited boards?? It's ironic that the Not about Food gets the spirited conversation on a Food website, LOL. Thanks for your post of support...I try to see all sides.

        2. re: Tay

          I also agree that the party should have called ahead. I don't think it is fair to bring outside food into a restaurant. If you don't want to eat the food, then don't. But a restaurant is not a cafeteria.

          The restaurant should be able to arrange for a kosher meal. If it is not possible, then the restaurant can either lose the party by refusing to let the last guest bring in their kosher meal or graciously agree to allow them to do so in order not to lose the whole party. I think a bigger tip would then be in order.

        3. I think it depends on the city and culture of the people eating. For example, in a bigger city where "different" behaviors are more the norm than the exception, WHATEVER that behavior is, it probably wouldn't be made a big deal. For example in LA, where people bring their own salad dressing or don't order off the menu and suggest the kitchen create things specifically the way someone desires. But in a smaller town and in a more "clique-ish" type group, it could be seen as weird or offensive because that's how cliques work - they like you to conform, not be different.

          I guess it would depend on what the group outing was for. Were they all friends who regularly dine together? I think not if this was a new occurrance. If it was some kind of business dinner or occasion where the diner was new to the group, I certainly wouldn't have made a big deal about it. People think it's "weird" whenever anyone has a food habit outside of established societal norms, whether that's being vegetarian, vegan, kosher, or something else. If the diner had been out with a lot of other Jewish people, even those who don't keep Kosher, nobody would have batted an eye about it and in fact they would probably apologize for not finding a Kosher place and resolve to do that going forward if one is around.

          4 Replies
          1. re: rockandroller1

            From a geographical standpoint, I see it totally differently. In our smaller town, the lady in question would probably have been much too well-mannered to even attempt to do this without calling the restaurant first.

            And even if she didn't, the restaurant personnel around here would probably be much too polite to say anything about it.

            1. re: Clarkafella

              Clarkafella, I'm not clear on how your perception is so different. It sounds like from your perspective, this would be deemed 'offensive', hence why people in your town are too 'well-mannered' to try this. And indeed, possibly also 'weird', which is why restaurant personnel would be 'too polite' to say anything.

              1. re: Lizard

                Nope, it wouldn't be found offensive at all- in fact it wouldn't have even been a big deal. I can't say for sure, but it is my belief that even if it *did* offend a wait person in one of our local places, they would never dream of saying anything about it.

                1. re: Clarkafella

                  Well, if it's not offensive to you, why is it that people in your town are too 'well mannered' to do it? Your statement suggests that people in your small town wouldn't do what she did because they have manners.

          2. If I had a food restriction - ANY sort, religious or medical or whatever - that prevented my eating a restaurant's food, I would never "bring my own."

            The place is there to sell meals, not to give me a place to sit and take up space for free. There are polite options - I could eat first and order a drink while my friends eat, I could order SOMETHING (surely even the most severe restrictions allow me to have a soda straight from the bottle or something similar).

            Or else - I wouldn't go. Too bad that my limitations prevent me from following my friends to certain places, I'm just gonna have to accept that and live within my limitations. It makes no difference whatever that these were religiously-based limitations, it was way out of line to bring in food from home.

            5 Replies
            1. re: wayne keyser

              I agree with Wayne. It is just tacky at best. The restaurant is a business, selling food and service. If you can not eat the restaurants food, don't go. If not sure, call ahead.

              1. re: rednyellow

                " It is just tacky at best"
                No.. It's not "tacky" but not consulting the Mgr.isn't the way to go.

                1. re: Tay

                  Yes, it is totally tacky to bring your own food into a restaurant. They exist to sell food. Going to a restaurant is not a right. If it doesn't fit your diet, for what ever reason, don't go.

                  1. re: Tay

                    it is tacky.

                    1. re: lisa13

                      red and lisa
                      The fact that you deem it "tacky" seems to show your lack of knowledge as to what constitutes, "tacky"
                      Following traditional rel beliefs is not 'tacky". Pretending to be kosher to bring your own food in order to get out of paying for a meal would be considered tacky.
                      See?...BIG diffference :-}

              2. The party should have called ahead to ask permission. Bringing outside food into a restaurant is illegal in some instances (if the guest gets sick or someone else who had eaten the food gets sick, who is culpable?). As other posters have noted, the restaurant should have been gracious in arranging a kosher meal to be delivered from a kosher restaurant (if there are kosher citizens, there are facilities for kosher delivery) and the guest offered whatever she did or did not need. This is the norm in cities where Kosher guests are common.

                There should be no reason to attack her religion or force her to sit with nothing while other guests enjoyed themselves.

                1. Tricky issue, to say the least
                  .
                  I know many ( I mean, MANY ) orthodox jewish folk that, if the need arises to walk into a non-kosher restaurant, be it just to have an innocuous cup of tea, they'll remove their skullcap. Reason? So that if another orthodox guy B ( let's call the 2nd one B, the first one A) happens to be around and see A there won't assume, from the fact that A is sitting in, that the place is kosher, walk in and have something non-kosher to eat. That is, A commits a violation of the law ( removing the skullcap ) to prevent a possible higher-level violation from B ( eating non-kosher).

                  Going back to the situation at hand, and assuming ( not necessarily the case ) lady A in orthodox garb ( wig, long dress &etc ) eating her own stuff: by eating at the place she is risking another orthodox lady B being confused and committing a real violation, that is, ordering something to eat assuming lady A ordered from the kitchen.

                  My own very personal opinion/verdict/conclusion, based in all of the above: orthodox lady should have abstained.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: RicRios

                    Ric
                    I think the Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First" routine pales in comparision to your "A&B" scenario.lol!
                    Had the kosher patron called ahead and inquired about ordering a kosher meal ,the issue might have been easily resolved.
                    PS: The head covering to which you refer is called a kippah or yarmulke.

                    1. re: Tay

                      Tay,

                      Your PS insight is greatly appreciated.

                  2. I can't imagine why it would ever be ok to bring your own food and utensils to a restaurant, for any reason, period.
                    if you require a particular accomodation, such as, in this case, a kosher meal and its proper accoutrements, it's perfectly acceptable to speak with the management beforehand and explain your situation. it would also be correct to acknowledge any extra effort made by them on your part when it comes time to leave a gratuity.
                    that said, i would hope that a restaurant would be sensitive to customers' needs and do whatever they can to make them feel welcome.
                    technically speaking, the restaurant's obligation to the customer is to provide food and service as advertised. a customer's obligation to the restaurant is to consume such food and service, and to compensate accordingly. any other arrangement or special accomodation should be requested beforehand and not taken for granted.

                    1. i have been in this business a long time, working in an urban area, and could count on one hand how many times i've had to deal with arranging or accommodating a kosher diner. for obvious reasons, they tend not to go to non-kosher restaurants.

                      the woman absolutely should have called ahead. it was rude of her to not do so.

                      however, the server and manager should have treated her respectfully. this is not some faddish diet, but a religious issue. by treating her well, and showing respect both to her and her dining companions, they would have reaped much greater will than grumbling over a few lost dollars by her bringing her own.

                      edited to add: there is nothing in the op to indicate this diner was orthodox, only that she kept strict kosher -- the two are not mutually inclusive. i find it absurd, as well as insensitive, to think she should have been forced to not eat, rather than risk somebody else assuming the place was kosher simply because *she* was there.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Thank you for this, hotoynoodle.
                        I agree that she should have called ahead but that the restaurant was rude for the grumbling. Although I've just learned that the diner did, in fact, call ahead, making the response on the original board (anyone have a link?) and this chowhound thread troubling at best. There's a strange hostile, or possibly angrily indignant tone that pervades this discussion. When a poster deems her 'tacky' for bringing her own plate, one can see how ignorance plays a factor in this hostility. (Perhaps if this poster had been familiar with dietary laws, s/he would not have been so disgusted as to use all caps to signal horror). There also seems to be great anger regarding this performance of difference; suggestions that she should not eat, or not celebrate with friends lest she upset restaurant etiquette (and it sounds like the diner did behave correctly) reveals some pretty unsettling priorities.
                        Sorry for this (moderate) outburst-- perhaps I'm wrong in what I perceive, perhaps I'm overly sensitive, but yes, I suppose I am a bit upset by these things I'm noting.

                        1. re: Lizard

                          I have not read anything in the original link about the diner calling ahead and getting prior approval to bring her own food in - maybe I missed it. Here's the link:

                          http://bitterwaitress.net/smf/index.p...

                          1. re: Jeanne

                            Thanks very much for this, Jeanne. I was wondering why no one had posted this yet (I had no idea what site was being referred to- but I was very curious!)

                            1. re: Jeanne

                              The wait person says in the body of their post on the bitter waitress site "...I was told this was being allowed because she was on a strictly kosher diet, and that our restaurant couldnt do anything to accommodate that...."

                              1. re: Jeanne

                                Fascinating reading. In orignal posting, the waitress wasn't even the server. She reports, "I was told this was being allowed because she was on a strictly kosher diet, and that our restaurant couldnt do anything to accommodate that." Later in the post, she writes, "Bottom line for me- If you're choosing to put your own dietary restrictions on yourself, well then dont go to a restaurant that cant accommodate them. Apparently, I was the only one last night of this mind set."

                                So we have a situation in which not only management but the waiter/waitress involved in serving this table are perfectly fine with what happened. Nevertheless, a considerable of people in this thread have become outraged. "Slippery slope," "tacky," and "loss of revenue" have been the most common areas of criticism.

                                I applaud the manager of the restaurant and his/her flexible, tolerant, common sensical wait staff -- with one notable exception. Apparenty, they weren't frightened by the hypothetical possibility that some time in the future, a hoard of kosher-observant folks would storm their restaurant only one of whom would actually order a meal. Apparently, they were able to understand that allowing one diner to follow her religion doesn't equate with tacky behavior. Apparently, they were able to understand that the good will -- and resulting business -- they will generate from the five women whose companion was made to feel welcome will more than compensate for the loss of one lunch meal.

                          2. It was tacky of the woman to bring her own food, and PLATE?

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: beevod

                              If she required kosher food, then she was obliged to bring her own plate and silver as well.

                              1. re: beevod

                                Well, the woman can't very well maintain the kosher status of the food she has brought from the outside by putting it on the restaurant's non-kosher plate. If the goal is to eat guaranteed kosher food bringing the plate along doesn't worsen the basic action. That said, this incident never should have occurred without talking in advance to the manager.

                                1. re: beevod

                                  part of the kosher requirements pertain to "clean" silverware and plates, isn't that right? ("clean" meaning NEVER having non-kosher food served on them.)

                                  1. re: anthrochick

                                    Pretty much, although it has nothing to do with whether the the plates and utensils are clean or not. A restaurant could accommodate a diner by breaking out brand-new plates and silver, but no one could count on their doing so.

                                    1. re: anthrochick

                                      Actually, it's about having separate utensils and vessels for dairy vs meat foods.

                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        yes, that is what I mean by "clean"...by never having non-kosher foods or inappropriate foods served on them. Clean as in part of the sacred rituals.

                                        1. re: anthrochick

                                          Actually, it's both. And if the diner is very strictly kosher simply having new, unused tableware would not be enough. The dishes and silver would have to be "toiveled" first. That means having them dipped in a mikveh or dish mikveh (ritual bath).

                                  2. The patron was free to do this *if* she or the hostess (if any) of her group spoke to the management ahead of time and gained its approval. Otherwise, major no-no. This is true for food restrictions of any type, medical or religious or ethical.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Karl S

                                      Without getting involved in the kashrut issue, I have seen this situation many times in my own family. A cousin's child has celiac and therefore cannot tolerate any amount of gluten. She cannot tolerate cross-contamination and will get sick even from eating gluten-free food cooked in a fryer that previously had gluten in it. In our area there are very few restaurants that can accomodate a gluten-free diet.
                                      When family visits and we go out in a group of 10 or 12 the child's mother will generally bring cooked food from home for her and then let her order a baked potato and drink. What should the choice be? Should this child never have the opportunity to dine out with her family because it is somehow "rude" of her to have this illness? Should the entire family never be able to eat out because a waiter will be offended?
                                      Life is never an all or nothing proposition. If you can't learn to compormise or even have a little heart maybe you don't belong in the customer service segment.

                                      1. re: rockycat

                                        The compromise is to ask the restaurant's management first. That's a choice.

                                    2. I just re-read the post and the waiter who posted this was told that they were allowing it because they could 'not' accomodate a Kosher meal for her.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: dorilou

                                        Interesting new detail. The waiter in the original incident was told by his own management that they were willing to accept the woman's behavior but the waiter went ahead and "complained" (OP's word) in a public forum about the woman's behavior. I wonder how many other policy decisions management makes that said waiter also gripes about.

                                      2. I think it is bad etiquette to bring outside food into a restaurant, religious, dietary, or even if you like Taco Bell instead of McDonalds. I also would think it may be against health code restrictions in some cities. I wouldnt do it.

                                        My opinion, either do not eat, or do not go, if you are thinking of bringing outside food in.

                                        1. it seems weird that the restaurant told the woman that bringing in her own food was okay since they absolutely could not accommodate her. if the place was a manhattan steakhouse, specializing in blue cheese sauce, with a 200 sq foot kitchen, then okay, but really? they couldn't arrange a salad or main on a new plate or in a to-go box and serve it to her? it does sound as if in this instance the party did due diligence in calling ahead to see what was possible, and the lady brought her own food as a result. the server shouldn't complain about the situation since the mgmt made the decision to allow this. if s/he'd like to complain about the mgmt, then it's time to get another job.

                                          otoh if someone brought in any type of food *without* calling ahead to see what is possible to arrange for, it would be very insulting to the whole establishment and staff. even the most "inflexible", "old-school" places will sometimes bend over backward to be hospitable to a party when just one diner has a special diet request, and they should absolutely be given the opportunity to try to accommodate them. locally, a lovely traditional italian steakhouse will go to the trouble of outsourcing one organic vegan meal to make one guest comfortable at a wedding reception, for example.

                                          10 Replies
                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            A clean plate is not sufficient. The utensils and table service for her would have to be certified to have never come into contact with foods that would be a problem for keeping her meal kosher, or have been cleaned by fire (a blow torch, eg), et cet.

                                            So, strict kosher is a problem is a restaurant that is not strictly kosher.

                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              right. i understand the requirements of kosher cooking and service. and many restaurants either have brand-new implements in storage, or they can use "to-go" plasticware/disposable plates & flatware that would fit the bill-- or, they can outsource one kosher meal on disposables through their restaurant/hospitality network. even if they can only supply a salad, or a simple vegetarian meal, if the restaurant can accommodate the special diet, they should be allowed to do so.

                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                sorry, to clarify again, "clean" in terms of sacred rituals, not soap and water clean. I was not using the term literally.

                                              2. re: soupkitten

                                                Here are some limited examples of why the woman's request was so difficult for the restaurant. Your hypothetical salad seems so simple -- no meat -- no dairy. But...
                                                ...if the knife used to slice the tomatoes has come in contact with non-kosher food, the knife would render the tomato non-kosher.
                                                ... if the carrot peeler had been washed in a dishwasher with items that touched non-kosher foods...
                                                ... if the cutting board...

                                                I sure wish the name of the restaurant and manager in this situation were made known so the restaurant and he/she could receive the kudos and business he/she deserves for handling this situation well.

                                                As a side comment, non-kosher kitchens can be made kosher but it takes time and a blow torch. (I'm not exaggerating.) This koshering process has happened at least twice in the White House kitchen: once for a state dinner with a delegation of Israelis and once for the Hanukkah party thrown by the Bush family their first year in office.

                                                1. re: Indy 67

                                                  again, i understand kosher requirements. i don't expect that absolutely every restaurant can accommodate a kosher diner in-house, but many restaurants have prep areas, implements, and appliances that are kept strictly vegan, even if the place serves a lot of meat. i've seen very humble operations like pizza places be able to accommodate kosher requests as long as they are given notice.

                                                  but if the restaurant *can't* supply a kosher meal in-house, any restaurant that's in any sort of metropolitan area should be able to arrange for a kosher meal to be brought in. after all, the diner in the op's example is not the only person who requires kosher meals. the restaurant should arrange for the kosher meal and add an appropriate charge for doing so, which the diner/party should cheerfully pay.

                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                    kosher caterers are restricted by the sabbath. i had a request from a guest who would be dining on a saturday evening. the reservation was made by another in the party on friday evening. there was no way to get a plate made in time.

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      how terribly rude to not give you any notice, making it virtually impossible to accommodate. in that case, #1) i would still have attempted to order a special meal from a completely vegan local restaurant #2) (last ditch) yeah i guess, bring your own food in. nothing says hospitality like folks bringing their own lunchboxes into a restaurant. how unsatisfying (and uncomfortable) for everyone involved :(

                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                        it wasn't rudeness on her part, it was being unaware. vegan is not the same as kosher, and not an acceptable replacement.

                                                        as i mentioned above, i have been in the business a long time, and this is a rare request, that i have always done my best to accommodate. they don't bring a lunchbox, for goodness' sake. it's always been discreet, not a big deal, people at other tables don't even notice. sometimes business dinners and such cannot be avoided.

                                                        i don't understand why people think this is rude. it's a religious restriction. how intolerant some of the posters seem.

                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          i think that a business dinner is different than the op's situation, which sounds like a social gathering. a social group has much more leeway in selecting a meeting venue. as i said in my original post above, i don't regard the lady as rude: she did her due diligence by calling ahead and agreeing with the manager that she should bring in her own food. the server is the person who's at fault for complaining--if s/he has a problem s/he should take it up with the management.

                                                          i realize that not every vegan food is also kosher, but i'm also not talking about squeezing grape juice all over the kosher diner's plate before putting the rest of the food on, i'm referring to ordering a special meal from an all-vegan restaurant as an attempt to accommodate her/him. i have used this route in the past with kosher diners, halal guests, and buddhist clergy, specifying hey this is for kosher guests, no wine vinegar, etc; hey this is for buddhist monks, no garlic, etc; i pass on whatever guidelines i've been given and send along wrapped new dishes and explicit typed instructions. when in doubt i order the most conservative options possible. i go myself or send someone in my own car to pick up and transport the food. for the strictest folks i've encountered, this has been acceptable. for everyone except the strictest folks i've encountered, in-house vegan meals prepared with & on disposables have been acceptable. many guests have thanked my staff for going to the extra effort to accommodate everyone, including numerous dietary restrictions because of health, allergy, pregnancy and religion all within the same party.

                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            It would be interesting to have the OP weigh in on the size of their city. I live in a fairly large metropolitan area and we don't have one vegan restaurant. We do have some vegetarian restaurants which also offer vegan dishes but nothing that's just vegan. I do know there are places that have kosher food and could prepare a kosher meal but they are very, very few and concentrated only in one part of town.

                                              3. One thing that all have to realize is that there are various levels of observance when it comes to kashrut. The idea of someone removing their kippa so that no one would think that it is a kosher restaurant doesn't make a whole lot of sense, because those who are concerned would certainly check that the restaurant had the appropriate certificate. The woman is obviously orthodox. if she were conservative and kept kosher, she would go to the restaurant and order fish or salad and not be as concerned about what dishes she had them on.
                                                That being said, I think it was inexcusable for her to waltz in and think that there was nothing wrong with her coming in with her own food, plates and utensils. She is an adult, not a child. When my son was young and would not eat certain foods, like dim sum, we would bring a peanut butter sandwich along for him, and it would never be a big deal. It was either all of us coming, or none of us, and we alway tip well, so the waiter would not have been annoyed. That could have been the crux of the issue from the waiter's end here, they may not have tipped well to begin with, and probably did not tip 20% extra for the person who did not eat.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: robinsilver

                                                  "That being said, I think it was inexcusable for her to waltz in and think that there was nothing wrong with her coming in with her own food, plates and utensils. She is an adult, not a child. When my son was young and would not eat certain foods, like dim sum, we would bring a peanut butter sandwich along for him, and it would never be a big deal. It was either all of us coming, or none of us, and we alway tip well, so the waiter would not have been annoyed. That could have been the crux of the issue from the waiter's end here, they may not have tipped well to begin with, and probably did not tip 20% extra for the person who did not eat."

                                                  First of all, why is it more acceptable for you to bring in a PB&J for your child because he wouldn't eat dim sum? Because he was a kid? Why didn't you go somewhere else where he would eat the restaurant's food? And how do you know the waiter wasn't annoyed? Because he didn't say anything? Your argument that it was either all of you or none of you is the same as the woman who brought in the kosher food, is it not? It was either 5 customers or none at that particular restaurant. How is it different?

                                                  Additionally, nothing was said about the tip, so your assumption that the group didn't tip well is presumptious and without merit, since we really don't know.

                                                  1. re: marcia

                                                    In my experience, there are, indeed, different expectations for small children and adults when it comes to eating in restaurants. Hence, many fine dining establishments limit the hours/dining rooms in which children are allowed. Some places, for better or worse, frown on children entirely because they know that often (not always), parties with young children will make more noise, more mess, and will require outside food/beverages/tableware.

                                                2. I really don't see what the big deal is...she has religious restrictions that the restaurant cannot accommodate, so she should be banned from ever enjoying a meal in a restaurant with her friends?!! I think the nay-sayers who believe this is unacceptable probably don't have a good understanding of Jewish laws, or how central they are in observant people's lives. Comparing deep-seated religious and cultural beliefs to preferring Taco Bell to McDonald's is misguided, and frankly, insulting. I find many of the responses in this thread intolerant. As for the restaurant/waiter losing revenue, what if she had decided to share a meal? There would still be only 5 meals for 6 women then, and I doubt very many of you would have found that problematic. And she is not ordering a meal for a much more important reason. Besides, they probably would have to provide a 6-top for a party of 5 if she had simply stayed home...so again, no real revenue loss. But even if the restaurant/waiter had lost revenue, isn't it worth it to show a little tolerance of someone's religion and not reject the business of the other 5 diners? As for the etiquette issue, I believe that discriminating against someone for their religious beliefs is certainly worse etiquette than bringing your own food due to religious restrictions. I agree that the kosher diner should inquire about getting a kosher meal, but if they can't accommodate her I see absolutely nothing wrong with her bringing her own food and plate so that she can join the other 5 paying diners.

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: Nicole

                                                    Nicole, I have some good friends and colleagues who are observant. It is from them I get information on what is appropriate. They always ask if a kosher meal is available prior to arrival, and if they cannot be accommodated, they join us anyway and choose not to eat, but may order a drink. But they always make arrangements with the restaurant beforehand.

                                                    I do think that any good restaurant should try to accommodate their needs. But I also think we have to be respectful of the restaurant's business. It does not seem unreasonable for 1 out of 6 diners to be allowed to bring in their kosher meal, if arranged in advance with the restaurant. But imagine the following scenario. The 6th diner does not inform the restaurant of their dietary restrictions, and brings along a kosher meal. The restaurant, not wanting to ruffle feathers or to lose the other 5 diners, agrees to allow the 6th diner to eat their meal. The next time, the dinner party includes 3 diners who stay kosher, and 3 diners who want to order in the restaurant. The diners say "well last time you let us do this". At what point is the restaurant allowed to say no?

                                                    Now I would expect that the above scenario is very unlikely to happen, but you never know. And this situation could arise in other groups with dietary restrictions, such as vegetarians or those with medical reasons like gluten allergies.

                                                    A phone call ahead of time to discuss the situation with the restaurant management is the best way to avoid problems and misunderstandings. I would consider this to be plain courtesy. And I would expect the restaurant to try to accommodate the guests' needs, within reason.

                                                    1. re: moh

                                                      I think we are all in agreement that the kosher diner should contact the restaurant and see if her needs can be accommodated. I think the part where some of us disagree is on whether it is ok to then bring in your own food if you cannot be accommodated, and whether it is ok to judge, complain about, or put down a religious individual who chooses to bring her own food, with the restaurant's consent. As you pointed out, some kosher individuals will simply choose not to eat in that scenario (although a very strictly kosher person wouldn't drink out of the restaurant's glass, either--she would have to sit there with nothing as her friends ate and drank), but I don't think a person should have to make that choice, or else be looked down upon. As for your scenario where 3 out of 6 bring their own meals, without talking to the restaurant, of course I would agree that this extreme scenario is not appropriate. But that's not the scenario we are talking about. I'm just surprised at how quick people are to put down the diner in the much less extreme scenario posted above.

                                                      1. re: Nicole

                                                        "I'm just surprised at how quick people are to put down the diner in the much less extreme scenario posted above."

                                                        I do agree that this person should not be looked down upon for their religious practices. Your point is well taken, especially now that we know that the restaurant in question was willing to accommodate the diner because they could not provide a kosher meal themselves.

                                                        It actually makes sense to me to accommodate this party from a business point of view. Why lose a party of five diners just because you can't accommodate the sixth person? It seems the management of the restaurant also came to this conclusion when they agreed to let the kosher individual to bring her own meal. Combine this willingness to accommodate with good service and courteousness, and you have a happy bunch of clients who then add your restaurant to a list of places that they would return. Makes sense to me!

                                                        1. re: Nicole

                                                          "and whether it is ok to judge, complain about, or put down a religious individual who chooses to bring her own food, with the restaurant's consent."
                                                          It appeared as though this was not with the restaurant's consent, unless of course the waiter didn't know that it was agreed upon. I don't think we would be having this discussion if we were told that the restaurant was told in advance, and agreed to have the woman come in and eat her own food, only to have the waiter complain. It is true that there was no mention of the tip, however, I would bet that if the waiter received what he considered to be a generous tip, he would have kept his mouth shut. I think that is only human nature.

                                                          1. re: robinsilver

                                                            At least in this instance, I have a far less charitable feeling about human nature. Re-read the OP's (Dorilou) second post. She wrote that the waiter's complaining post included the fact that management had given the woman permission to bring in the food and utensils. (Admittedly, we don't know whether management's decision was made in real time or made in advance.) In spite of management's decision, the waiter chose to complain.

                                                            The fact that the waiter omitted information about the tip leads me to a different conclusion from yours. It's equally possible that the waiter received a perfectly fine tip, but that detail would have undermined his basic criticsm of the situation. By leaving out that detail, he is slanting his post to receive responses that support his anger about both the woman's behavior and management's decision.

                                                        2. re: moh

                                                          I don't think it's so useful to consider extreme circumstances because if any more of the group than a small minority couldn't eat the food, the group would probably go elsewhere. It's not like kosher people love eating in non-kosher establishments or vegans love steakhouses. If there was more than just 1 random person with a restriction, the party would be much less apt to go to such a restaurant in the first place.

                                                      2. Regardless of the reason, religious, health or otherwise, this circumstance requires the diner to contact the management beforehand. If the circumstance discribed by the OP, and as modified later to reflect approval by the manager is accurate, the the waiter is the one who should be shamed, however. Many facilities will be accomodating when approached correctly. Also, a tip should be proffered by the guest. I say this coming from a kosher household.

                                                        1. IMHO, neither of them showed much common courtesy. She should have called the restaurant first, but once she arrived without calling, the server should've respected the group and made her feel welcome in the establishment.

                                                          1. I'm actually quite surprised at the discourse that this subject started. I have never considered bringing "outside food" into any restaurant for any reason. Did the group of people who got together not discuss ahead of time that they would be going out? Apparently they did since the woman had enough time to prepare her own meal and bring her own utensils. Did she not mention to her friends ahead of time that she was kosher? We don't know the answer, but IF they knew, why couldn't they have gone to a kosher restaurant (if one was available), after all when we get together with friends we always discuss ahead of time what kind of food we want, sure it's usually the ethnicity that's decided but the same goes for restrictions ie. kosher, shellfish allergies, vegetarianism, etc. I understand going to a catered affair and asking for kosher meals (i've been to many of these)and fully expecting the caterer to handle the situation, but I would never expect a restaurant that had no kosher kitchen to supply a kosher meal. My feeling is that the restaurant and their employees should never be rude (big picture: no one in any situation should ever be rude) but the owner/mgr of the restaurant had every right to explain to the party that they do not allow "outside food" into the establishment.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: jnk

                                                              Finally someone who stated the obvious - what should have been done in this situation. Go to a kosher restaurant.

                                                              1. re: Jeanne

                                                                why should management reject revenue from the other diners in the party, and piss them off besides? good will and hospitality go a long way in succeeding in business.

                                                                1. re: Jeanne

                                                                  There are not always kosher restaurants around! My hometown of 40,000 is 60-70 miles from a kosher restaurant. I can imagine a similar situation in that hometown, like a high school get-together or reunion lunch , and the kosher woman has traveled to the ol home town. Even with advance notice, any restaurant would have to get the food from a kosher restaurant in the big city 70 miles away. The local synagogue might have been able to help her but they would have to get the food from the same places 70 miles away...but all for a simple dinner with friends?? Why can't she simply bring her own food and plate? I don't get the uproar. These things are really critical, vital to dietary observant Jews. It is not to be taken lightly, nor is it the same as vegan or being a celiac. Nor can she be give just a new plate at the restaurant or a To Go box. The Laws of Kashrut are obedience to God to many people, and not flexible or adjustable. It's a big deal, a lifestyle/culture that she may have been born into and then chosen. There are alot of " selective" eaters on this website, who like things just the way they like them; I am suprised at the number of people who are upset with this woman who tried, with the restaurant's ok, to observe her religious faith while enjoying her friends too. Let's show her some respect.

                                                                  1. re: Jeanne

                                                                    ink and Jeanne
                                                                    "what should have been done in this situation. Go to a kosher restaurant."
                                                                    As I mentioned in an earlier posting, it's possible that there were no Kosher restos in the atea.
                                                                    Additionally, Kosher food is very costly. Perhaps the croup could not manage the cost.
                                                                    I know, your responses will probably be : "Then they shouldn't have gone out for a meal"
                                                                    That isn't really the solution.

                                                                2. Don't do it, and it has nothing to do with looking down on other people's beliefs, religion, etc. It is really beyond the pale, and I'm speaking from the perspective of having family members who have dietary restrictions due to their religions/personal beliefs or health reasons, and they would never think to bring their own meals to a restaurant b/c of it. If you are so limited in what you can eat, then unfortunately, you are the one who needs to come up with alternatives--not the restaurant. Yes, a good restaurant would do what it can to cater to the customer, but believe it or not, there are limits.

                                                                  I have a friend who won't eat anything that comes in contact with seafood. What are we going to do: inspect the kitchen to make certain this doesn't happen in the course of preparing her meals? No, she's resigned to the fact that she can only eat in places where she can see her food actually being prepared. Sure, it limits her options a great deal, but the onus is on her.

                                                                  A restaurant is not your personal kitchen. What's next: should I bring my own server, water, and bread too, since I readily have the last two items on hand?

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: gloriousfood

                                                                    your friend has a quirk, not a religious restriction.

                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                      In fact, she has a phobia about all things seafood, but my point is, regardless of the reason a person has for a particular diet, there are limits to what a restaurant can do. I should also edit my remark to say that I agree with all those who suggest that speaking with the manager ahead of time is probably the best way to approach this.

                                                                      1. re: gloriousfood

                                                                        A phobia is very different then a religious belief or true food allergy. I can't speak on the religious issue, but as someone who has a very severe food allergy to corn & all its derivatives, I can't trust that a restaurant can provide safe food for me, as corn is so widely used as both as an ingredient and in many food treatments (citric acid sprayed on meats & produce, for example). Am I to never enjoy the company of friends at a restaurant without having to eat ahead of time? What if my schedule doesn't allow for 2 'meal' times? Am I suppose to scarf down my homemade safe foods in my car while driving to the restaurant or go hungry?

                                                                        Restaurant plans are not always made far enough in advance to place a call, though I do if I'm able. You mentioned its not up to the restaurant to provide an alternative, that we as customers need to be able to offer reasonable alternatives. I agree that for your friend with the seafood phobia, finding restaurants where she can see the food being prepared is a very good alternative that leaves her with plenty of options compared to me trying to find a restaurant that could prepare a safe meal for me.

                                                                        1. re: anniemax

                                                                          So how you handle your particular situation, anniemax? I'm really curious, b/c that's a hard one. Do you go out to eat with friends and family? Like you said, you can't trust that a restaurant would avoid those ingredients.

                                                                          Actually, my friend has a tough time with her phobia. Her eating options are pretty much limited to dingy Chinese takeout places where she can see the food being cooked, sandwich shops, or delis. Most restaurants do not have an open kitchen. She also doesn't cook, so that's not an option.

                                                                          I sympathize with anyone who has dietary restrictions--for whatever reason--and have a hard time finding a place to eat. I don't know what the solution is. But bringing your own food to a restaurant is not it.

                                                                  2. As I continue to read this thread, I am frustrated by several of the posts, which are ignorant about the precise nature of Kosher restrictions and their religious and cultural significance, yet still feel free to judge the kosher person in question. But rather than further aggravating myself by replying to each and every post that strikes me as misguided, I'm going to step out of the discussion and simply thank hotoynoodle and others who have been voices of reason and tolerance throughout this discussion.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Nicole

                                                                      I know how you feel. And if you do step back in, a thanks to you as well (I thanked hotoynoodle earlier). I feel a bit better to know that I wasn't mistaken, and that others are also picking up on a disturbing lack of tolerance.

                                                                    2. personally speaking - im very knowledgeable about the rules of kashrut, and i think it was fairly outrageous behavior.

                                                                      you say why not accommodate one so you can sell to 6. how about if 5 out of the 6 brought their own food? should the restaurant accommodate in that situation also? giving up a 6top at dinnertime to be accommodating.

                                                                      religious restrictions are self-imposed. if you make that choice for your life, you have that right no question. but once you start imposing it on others it becomes something else.

                                                                      a restaurant is in the business of selling food. if you think there is no cost to the restaurant even if someone brings their own food and setting, then u are ignoring the truth of that business. go to a restaurant that can accommodate your restrictions. then there isn't an issue.

                                                                      that’s my 2 shekels

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                        "you say why not accommodate one so you can sell to 6. how about if 5 out of the 6 brought their own food? should the restaurant accommodate in that situation also? giving up a 6top at dinnertime to be accommodating."

                                                                        but that isn't the case, the op or anything. one diner, with a religious restriction, whom the restaurant treated graciously and gained the good will of 6 people in the process. why is that so hard to comprehend?

                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                          I've been staying out of this, but I agree with you completely! I do think such a diner should call ahead, and the table should tip as if that diner had ordered a meal, but otherwise - shouldn't be a big deal.

                                                                      2. jfood has been silent on this one, wanting to reflect. Let's take the easy ones first. Any time this situation may occur the diners need to call the restaurant for a head's up and receive an OK. Second, the waiter should never complain.

                                                                        It is very easy to come up with an example to prove anyone's position, but jfood wants to address at a very high level. Whether it is religious, philosophical or medical, one needs to take the totality of the situation to decide this gray area. Having 1 person in the group is obviously easier that 9 out of 10.

                                                                        But should this woman not be allowed to eat with her friends at a restaurant? Jfood's opinion is that the restaurant is there to serve food to customers. And it would be a enormous show of goodwill to allow the one person with restrictions to join her friends. Would people prefer her joining them and just sitting there, ordering nothing? Not a lot of compassion in that position. Then we would be posting on the thread entitled "The Old Biddy just sat there and did not leave a tip". If the restaurant says "no" then the group can decide to go elsewhere.

                                                                        If the server was extra gracious the six ladies would have probably left a larger tip.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                          There are a lot of reasons for a person in a group to not eat the food at a restaurant. I would put religious dietary restrictions and medical reasons in a different category that "not liking the food" (and would be willing to consider vegetarian in the same category). Goodness knows there are plenty of times a person will join a larger group having eaten somewhere else, and not order a thing, not because of special reasons but because they are too full. Yet I don't think there would be the same outcry as when someone decides not to eat because of religious reasons.

                                                                          Perhaps we all need to step back and relax a bit. This is a party of 6. If one person decides not to eat, and the restaurant is willing to accommodate, good. Let's not worry about why. Let's just worry about common courtesy and hospitality.

                                                                          1. re: moh

                                                                            I don't think it is a matter of the diner deciding not to eat - and that is not what the original poster on the other board was talking about. It was that she brought her own food into the restaurant - risking health code violations for the restaurant. And yes, the original poster is a waiter and not the owner of the restaurant.

                                                                        2. This has been an eyeopening thread.

                                                                          1st off, she did ask, management said it was fine! The waiter should either accept & deal with it or rethink if the "hospitality" biz is the right place for him/her.

                                                                          2nd, Kosher is not as simple as it may initially sound. While Soupkitten has put the energy into being aware & informed , I have to say (after working in the biz for years) that her willingness to understand and try to find a workable situation is unfortunately not typical. Kudos to you for doing your best to care for guests with tricky requirements! Your restaurant and customers are incredibly fortunate to have you in their court.

                                                                          3rd: There are vast regions in the country where there simply is not a kosher restaurant option. I'm in NC - a big state, several metro areas, good education level and there are, last I checked, 2 certified Kosher restos in the entire state. I've met many a traveling sales person who kept kosher who essentially carried a portable kitchen & pantry with them.

                                                                          4th - Why so black & white on this topic? Like much of life, this situation shows how much gray there is. The manager showed a number of commendable attributes by graciously allowing the woman to be able to keep her religious dietary restrictions and still be able to participate fully in a group event.

                                                                          Food is why all of us are here on CH - food is one of the most primal ways to bond. There are reasons why the act of breaking bread historically has such ritual. Dining together helps us to connect and create community. How wonderful that this manager realized that a meal shared is more important than a chef or waiter taking the situation as a personal insult!

                                                                          With all the truly horrible examples of us-vs-them in this world we should be rejoicing each time a small group finds a way to celebrate what they share rather than letting cultural/religious/etc, etc. differences divide them.

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: meatn3

                                                                            I agree with you....

                                                                            the topic seems fairly timely given an experience I just had: my office planned a large meeting this week, off-site. One of the participants called us to say she planned to attend, but was concerned because it was Passover and wanted to know if she could bring her own lunch in case the options offered weren't acceptible. (I didn't speak with her personally but gathered that while she was observing Passover and not eating levened bread,she didn't follow strict rules of Kashrut).

                                                                            Anyway, had I spoken with her, I would have just told her it was fine to bring her own lunch. To be honest, it never would have occured to me to call the meeting facility to ask if it was ok to bring in outside food: after all: we were paying them to provide food for 50 people, would they even notice?

                                                                            But my more detailed-oriented colleague who spoke with her did call the caterers to ask if the menu could include acceptable alternatives. They were rather discouraging of bringing in outside food, but also did not promise to be able to help. I think the conversation ended with my colleague being told, 'we make no promises, but we will work on something and I am sure it will be acceptable'.

                                                                            Lunch consisted of tuna and turkey sandwiches (on standard bread), chips, cookies, and fruit. So, since she wasn't keeping strict Kosher I guess she could have fruit and potato chips?

                                                                            However, the real deal-killer was the afternoon break: I am seriously hoping, but can't be sure, that it was coincidence and not an attempt to serve "Jewish food" that the break snack consisted of bagels and lox!

                                                                            1. re: meatn3

                                                                              I have a feeling that, had the original OP started a thread on a story about a woman who asked management beforehand if it would be alright to bring a kosher set-up in order to eat with her five friends, and the manager said "no problem", then this thread would have been about what a jerk the waiter was. but, if you re-read the original post, and the direct responses to it, the great majority of participants were offended by the presumptuousness of a person (any person) who brings plates, utensils, food to a restaurant without permission. the OP mentioned nothing about the guest having permission, and as you may notice from the discussion, the rest of us were under the impression that she hadn't.

                                                                              1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                                The OP posted a follow up comment (see link) in which it was noted that the woman did have permission to bring in her own meal as the restaurant could not provide her a kosher meal themselves. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/51196...

                                                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                                                  yes, i know. i was referring to those of us who answered on the first day, before dorilou added that bit of info. while we still don't know if the restaurant allowed it beforehand or after the fact, i have a feeling that if this bit of information-the restaurant having had the chance to accomodate her and being unable- were part of the original thread, then the fact thatshe brought her own food/equipment would have been little more than an understandable circumstance of the restaurant business, and the fact that this waiter has his own issues.
                                                                                  thanks for pointing out that she amended her post, though. perhaps others didn't notice it.

                                                                                  1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                                    Your original post said:

                                                                                    "I can't imagine why it would ever be ok to bring your own food and utensils to a restaurant, for any reason, period."

                                                                                    But apparantly, upon reflection, if I am reading your subsequent posts correctly 'period' is meant to exempt circumstances where permission was granted because management felt it was the best way to accomodate.

                                                                                    part of acceptance and tolerance is waiting to make a judgemental decision or opinion until one has all, or as many as one can gather within the time necessary to form the opinion, of the facts. I'd have been much less bothered by the tone of your and other replies if you had said upfront something like "well, I don't know all the story yet but I think she should have asked the restaurant if they could accomodate, and if not, gotten permission first" or something like that.

                                                                                    It is worth remembering that there are always at least two sides to every story. Usually five or six.

                                                                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                      Did you miss this part of my original post?:
                                                                                      "if you require a particular accomodation, such as, in this case, a kosher meal and its proper accoutrements, it's perfectly acceptable to speak with the management beforehand and explain your situation. it would also be correct to acknowledge any extra effort made by them on your part when it comes time to leave a gratuity. that said, i would hope that a restaurant would be sensitive to customers' needs and do whatever they can to make them feel welcome."

                                                                                      the initial discussion of this issue (before the OP added that the management was 'allowing it because they could not accomodate a Kosher meal for her') was based on the premise that a person went to a restaurant with supplies in hand and caught the restaurant off-guard. and still, for all we know, that is, indeed, what happened. that is the scenario to which i was responding. while i would never say that she should be forced to stay home or should sit there and be punished by having nothing, i still think that under that original premise, she was wrong. it is not correct to bring your own food and utensils to a restaurant without prior permission and first giving the restaurant a chance to provide you with what you need. no matter the reason. i think that management made the right decision in allowing the woman to stay and making everyone feel welcome (as i wrote from the start). i also think that the woman had a responsibility to take care of things beforehand.

                                                                                      i respect and appreciate your explanation, which i believe is to the benefit of everyone, of why you were bothered and how people might be offended by the various views of others. so perhaps i should not have used the word, "period". but i could have done without the lesson in acceptance and tolerance that you directed at me for my use of one word in a post that sided with management's allowance for the customer's needs.

                                                                            2. Hi:

                                                                              This discussion is starting to get very personal and unfriendly and we've had to remove a number of posts. Since it seems that pretty much everyone with an opinion has had at least one chance to put it out there, and now the conversation is getting repetitive, we're going to lock the thread.